01: Muslim Americans most closely resemble white evangelicals and black Protestants in their level of religious commitment, according to an analysis of recent surveys from the Pew Research Center. Among American Muslims, black Protestants and white evangelicals, large majorities (72 percent of Muslims, 87 percent of black Protestants, and 80 percent of white evangelicals) say religion is “very important” in their own lives. These high percentages set all three groups apart from Catholics (49 percent) and mainline Protestants (36 percent).
The percentages are also similar when answering whether they identify themselves first by being American or by their faith. They all chose their faith over nationality; in fact, Muslims (at 47 percent) were more likely to identify themselves as Americans first than the other two groups The belief in a literal scripture was also similar among these groups. The real difference came in political orientations, with the Muslims far more politically liberal than evangelicals, though close to the black Protestants. Then again, on social-moral issues, Muslims and evangelicals again showed strong similarities.
An analysis of press freedom in 190 nations shows a high degree of correlation between this liberty and the religious composition of these countries. In the Journal of Media and Religion (Vol. 6, No. 1), Coleen Connolly-Ahern (Penn State Univ.) and Guy J. Golan (Florida International University) study the rates of press freedom, as measured by the Freedom House Annual Survey of Press Freedom, in 192 nations, along with the percentages of Christians and Muslims and the overall percentage of religious diversity in these nations. The researchers find significant correlations between these religious variables and freedom of the press. The greater percentage of Christians in a nation, the higher its levels of press freedom.
In contrast, the results also suggest that the greater the percentage of Muslims in a nation, the lower the amount of press freedom in the nation. When other variables, such as type of government and national wealth, were taken into account, the religion factor still had significant influence on press freedom. Even when the Muslim nations were a democracy, they had less press freedom than non-majority Muslim nations. (Journal of Media and Religion, 10 Industrial Ave., Mahwah, NJ 07430)
02: In predominantly Muslim nations there is a continuing decline in the number of people saying that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are justifiable in the defense of Islam. The Pew Gobal Attitudes Project finds that in Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, the proportion of Muslims who view suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians as being often or sometimes justified has declined by half or more over the past five years. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The case is different in the Palestinian territories. Fully 70 percent of Palestinians believe that suicide bombings against civilians can be often or sometimes justified, a position starkly at odds with Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations.
The decreasing acceptance of extremism among Muslims also is reflected in declining support for Osama bin Laden. Since 2003, Muslim confidence in bin Laden and his strategy has fallen; in Jordan, just 20 percent express a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down from 56 percent four years ago. Yet confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains fairly high (57 percent) Views about Hezbollah and Hamas varies among Muslim publics. Views of both groups are favorable among most predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia.
And Palestinians have strongly positive opinions of both militant groups. But majorities in Turkey have negative views of both Hezbollah and Hamas. The survey also finds that, amid continuing sectarian strife in Iraq, there is broad concern among those surveyed that tensions between Sunnis and Shia are not limited to that country. Nearly nine-in-ten Lebanese (88 percent), and strong majorities in Kuwait (73 percent) and Pakistan (67 percent), say Sunni-Shia tensions are a growing problem for the Muslim world, and are not limited to Iraq. (For a copy of this report, visit: http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=257)